Friday, September 03, 2010

Chocolate-Malt Cake Challenge, Phase Two: A Turn for the Worse

The Momofuku Chocolate-Malt Cake Challenge has taken a turn for the worse. Last night was Phase Two: Cake Layers. Everything was smooth sailing until the batter went into the oven. Then this happened:

Here's the deal: I thought the cakes might sink. The recipe doesn't specify whether one should use non-alkalized (natural) or alkalized (Dutch-process) cocoa. Judging from the burnt sienna hue of the cake layers pictured in Bon Appetit, I suspected it was alkalized. The leavening agent (baking powder) in the recipe would also suggest this, but the acid (buttermilk) sort-of contradicts it. The point is, I thought the leavening would be off and it was. Were I to make this again -- and I probably will -- I would use non-alkalized cocoa and add baking soda.

The recipe -- which I'll be updating upon further testing -- is interesting in that it calls for butter and vegetable oil; sugar and corn syrup; melted chocolate and cocoa.

Chocolate-Malt Cake
Recipe: Christina Tosi via Bon Appetit
Makes three 8-inch layers

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% to 72% cacao), chopped [I used Valrhona 70%.]
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder [I used Valrhona, which is alkalized.]
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat three 8-inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Line bottom of each pan with parchment round; coat parchment with nonstick spray.

2. Place chocolate in small microwave-safe bowl. Melt in microwave in 15-second intervals just until melted, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

3. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and coarse salt into medium bowl.

4. Combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup in large bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.; beat on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time; beat on low speed to incorporate, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl.

5. Add melted chocolate. Beat until blended, about 1 minute. Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium-high speed until pale brown, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed just until blended, about 45 seconds. Divide batter among pans; smooth tops.

6. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pans on racks. [Note: My cakes baked for a full 35 minutes.]

Writing these Chocolate-Malt Cake posts makes me want to go searching for chocolate. How about you?


  1. I made this cake last weekend from the recipe in the cookbook (The Bon Appetit recipe looks slightly different). I will say that after the addition of the buttermilk mixture, I had to beat it almost 10 minutes for it to become homogenous. I finally switched to my whisk attachment and that worked. I switched back to the paddle for adding the dry ingredients. I'd love to compare notes with you on how the other steps went. I had major problems slicing this cake.

    1. Hi Ann,

      Thanks for visiting Flour Child and sharing your experience with this cake.

      As you'll see from my posts about the other steps involved in making this cake, I was OVER IT by the end of the experience.

      The cake *is* difficult to slice (although refrigerating it before slicing definitely helps), plus the recipe is overly complicated and the result is waaaaaaaay too sweet.

      Regarding your problem with non-homogenous batter, I think that your buttermilk mixture "curdled" your batter. The acidity of the buttermilk (and coldness, if it's not at room temperature) will cause the fats in the batter to temporarily solidify and separate from the rest of the mixture. Once you add the dry ingredients the batter comes back together almost immediately. I honestly cannot recall if this happened when I made my cake batter, but just by looking at the recipe I am guessing it did.

      Next time this happens with this or any other recipe, just proceed as instructed and it should work out just fine.

      I look forward to keeping up with your blog.

      Happy baking,